Admissions

Common App: Additional Information for Overflow Activities?

Question: I haven’t seen that you’ve addressed this anywhere, and the question has been coming up on CC repeatedly:

I have 17 extracurriculars, but there are only spaces for 10 of them in the “activities” section of the “Common App.” Can I use the “Additional Info” space to list the rest of them?

And there are generally three types of answer:


(1) Absolutely – that’s what the “additional info” section is for!

(2) Heck no – if they wanted you to list more than ten, they’d have given you more spaces! Save the “additional info” section for something that’s critically important, that provides needed background info, and that simply doesn’t fit anywhere else. Examples might be a serious illness, having had to change schools frequently, living in foster care – all things that simply aren’t addressed anywhere else in the application and which, for whatever reason, you chose not to include in your essay.

(3) You should definitely use the “additional info” section – if not for this, then for something else. Don’t leave ANY empty space on your application if you can possibly find a way to fill it!

Might you be willing to leap into the fray with your own recommendation?

Thanks!

If a student has more than 10 meaningful activities, then it’s fine to use the “Additional Information” section for the overflow, provided it’s not being used for other more critical reasons (e.g., serious illness, foster care, frequent moves) or even to report some less dire anomalies (strange schedule choices, a confusing school profile …)

But … and it’s a big “BUT” … many of the teenagers I’ve known over three decades who are itching to submit more than 10 activities are not focusing on the most meaningful ones, and sometimes the significant endeavors can get lost in the shuffle when an applicant tries to include pretty much EVERYTHING he or she has done outside of the classroom since stepping off the bus on the first day of high school. So I repeatedly warn students to be thoughtful when pruning their lists.

I also urge students to submit what I call an “Annotated Activities List,” which is basically a résumé on steroids. It provides a brief explanation of any entry that requires it. (This could be because the activity itself is uncommon or because the student’s role in an otherwise familiar activity is actually atypical.) It can also add occasional, judicious (and often much-needed) doses of humor (“Promoted from second flute to first–and only–piccolo player by desperate director of world’s worst high school band.”) But, like the application itself, the Activity List should be carefully edited to include only the more meaningful undertakings.

The Activities List can be snail-mailed to colleges or copied and pasted in the Additional Info section (if it’s not already full and if the student is willing to deal with some inevitable formatting snafus).

Note that a handful of colleges specifically forbid résumés, so students should check each college’s instructions carefully. Others, however, actually provide room in their supplement’s “Writing” section and specifically invite a résumé. Thus, as with most aspects of this crazy process, expect inconsistencies.

Bottom line: It’s often fine to use the Additional Information section for overflow activities, but students should be careful not to drown out their biggest commitments with nonessential ones.